Aerosols: small particles in the atmosphere

SRON’s role in aerosol research

Aerosols are small dust particles in the air, such as soot, ash and desert dust. They have a major influence on air pollution and climate change, but their precise role is insufficiently known. That is why scenarios for global warming up to the year 2100 vary approximately 3 degrees Celsius. Most aerosols have a cooling effect by reflecting and absorbing sunlight (aerosol-radiation interactions) and by changing the properties of clouds (aerosol-cloud interactions). But one type of aerosol–soot–contributes to global warming by boosting the warming effects of greenhouse gases. At SRON we work on space instrumentation, retrieval algorithms and data exploitation to better understand and quantify the effects of aerosols on climate and air quality.

  • projects

    SPEXone for PACE

    SPEXone is a compact five-angle spectropolarimeter instrument developed as a contributed payload for the NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) observatory. Launch is scheduled for early 2024. SPEXone will enable detailed characterization of aerosols, such as their absorption power, composition, size and height. It uses spectral modulation to provide measurements of radiance and state of polarization in a continuous wavelength spectrum, leading to a high polarimetric accuracy.

  • projects


    SPEXone is a small multi-angle spectropolarimeter for the quantification of atmospheric aerosol. It provides a light-path correction for CO₂ quantification. It is a candidate instrument for the two ESA’s CO2M satellites to be launched in 2026.

  • projects

    SPEX Airborne

    SPEX airborne is a prototype of SPEXone, a spectropolarimeter that is part of the payload for NASA’s PACE mission and a candidate to be part of ESA’s CO2M mission. SPEX airborne has flown onboard high altitude research aircrafts. In the near future SPEX airborne will be deployed in the validation campaign for PACE.

  • projects

    ESA Living Planet Fellowship on Fires

    Landscape fires, whether natural or human-made, release pollutants, greenhouse gases and aerosols, affecting not only climate but also human health.

Recent aerosol news


Aerosols & Clouds Publications

Meet our partners

We collaborate with climate researchers and modelers, and together contribute to the development of physical instruments and the promotion of scientific activities outside SRON.

Our other research themes

  • Methane

    • Responsible for ¼ of human-made greenhouse effect

    • About 30 times more powerful than CO₂ (GWP-100)

    • Large emissions from fossil fuel industry, landfills, livestock

  • CO₂

    • Most important human-made greenhouse gas

    • Hard to monitor emissions because of long lifetime

  • Carbon Monoxide

    • Reactions with atmospheric gases contribute to global warming

    • Trace gas to calculate CO₂ emissions from forest fires

    • One of the most important air pollutants

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